Summer brings changes – but are you coping?

We are approaching the season for large numbers of the population, both adults and children, where big life changing events take place.

Ordinarily we take them in our stride but sometimes we can be caught out and not cope as well as we would have expected to.

Many may be facing a change in the rhythm of the education system with a move to a new school or away heading off to university. Alternatively, there can be house moves, leaving friendship groups and family behind, relationship breakdowns, bereavement and severe business difficulties.

Janette Smeeton, Safeguarding Lead and Clinical Supervisor at Derwent Rural Counselling Service explains.

Most people embrace change as an exciting and challenging prospect, but for some, those alterations can feel like a huge pressure bringing abnormal and excessive negative reactions.

Often called Adjustment Disorder, it can occur whenever life changes for us – whenever we find that our usual routine or habits, change – even if it is an expected change.

The reaction can be more severe than would normally be expected and may result in significant impairment in day to day tasks, social, occupational, or academic functioning.

Symptoms can include depressed mood, impaired occupational/social functioning, agitation, palpitations; conduct disturbances for example truancy, vandalism, fighting; withdrawal; anxiety and tension.

You often hear people talking about feeling lost or, as though they have experienced a loss after a significant change has occurred and at times it can feel like depression or anxiety.

Usually, it passes all by itself within a couple of months and people make the adjustment. However, for some it starts to become problematic. If it lasts for more than three to six months it can often be helpful to talk to a therapist.

Adjustment disorders are associated with high risk of suicide and suicidal behaviour, substance abuse, and interference with the treatment of other medical disorders. Untreated it may progress to become a more severe mental health condition such as a major depressive disorder.

The primary goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms and help the person achieve a level of functioning comparable to that before the stressful event took place.

Recommended treatments include psychotherapy, family therapy, behaviour therapy and self-help groups which concentrate on social support networks, coping and problem-solving skills, also diet, relaxation techniques and sleep patterns.

In therapy, we encourage clients to explore the role of stress for them as an individual, positive ways to deal with stress and avoiding ongoing stressors, placing stressors into perspective in life and viewing stressors as a chance for positive change or improvement.

With help, most people recover without any remaining symptoms if they do not have a previous history of mental illness and have access to stable social support.

For free help call 0800 047 6861 or visit www.drcs.org.uk

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